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Home > Introduction to web apps  >  What is a web application
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What is a web application
Learn exactly what makes a web application different from a website – so you can start dreaming of the possibilities for your business!
You'll learn:
  • How data is added to a web app from multiple sources, unlike a website
  • The way that web apps control access to data
  • The ways that web apps present data to users that differ from websites
Instructor
Jason Howell
What is a web application
Learn exactly what makes a web application different from a website – so you can start dreaming of the possibilities for your business!
You'll learn:
  • How data is added to a web app from multiple sources, unlike a website
  • The way that web apps control access to data
  • The ways that web apps present data to users that differ from websites
Course Instructor
Jason Howell
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Transcript
As we’ve all gotten used to using online services in our lives — for everything from grocery delivery or therapy to yoga classes or getting a cab — our expectations have risen dramatically. 

Not long ago, you knew you had to pick up the phone and make a call to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Now, that feels like a ridiculous hassle to many of us. The idea of calling a cab is bizarre. And taking a yoga class in your living room from a star instructor who lives across the country makes perfect sense.

As the expectations in your market rise, being able to meet those expectations becomes mission critical, and exceeding them becomes a real, competitive advantage. If you don’t deliver the experience that your buyers are looking for, someone else will!

But delivering these online, self-service experiences requires you to build and manage some kind of web application. And building web apps like these has always required expensive engineers and product designers, taken forever and cost a fortune. 

Now, however, for the first time, it’s possible to build self-service online experiences like these without getting engineers involved or writing any code at all. Ontraport gives you the tools you need to create some pretty sophisticated web applications all on your own, and this course will show you how.

But before we start, let’s think about what a web application really is. 

We all know what a website is — it's a bunch of pages with words and pictures and maybe videos and a few other things.

And most of us probably have a sense of what a web application is too. For example, we know that Facebook is more than a website. Same with Airbnb and Instagram.

But what is the difference, specifically?

Well, one difference is that every person who visits a website sees pretty much the same thing as the next visitor.

A web application, on the other hand, is usually completely different for each visitor. If you went to someone else’s Facebook page or Instagram account, it would be quite different than your own.

Also, web applications tend to have a lot more interactivity. You can click links on any old website, but on a site like Airbnb, you can search for properties, view details, make reservations, chat back and forth with hosts, make payments and a lot more.

Now if you asked engineers the difference between a website and a web application, they’d say a website is made up of static pages, and an app is really software that happens to be accessible on the internet using a browser. 

And if you asked engineers what they see when they look at Airbnb, they’d say something like:

“I see a database-driven web application. I can see that Airbnb stores records for each property, with details like address, photos, description and availability. 

And it stores records for each user, with their name, contact info, credit card numbers, usernames and passwords. 

And, it stores information about hosts, and messages, and property reviews and lots more. I see that hosts can upload information about their properties, and users can update their personal settings. 

And there’s a pretty fancy search functionality that lets me find properties that I may want to book. Also, I see they’re showing me links to other records that are related to my search, like local experiences.”

If you take a step back, you can see what Airbnb really is, is a very fancy software application that, at the simplest level, does five things.
  1. First off, it lets hosts add data to Airbnb using forms. Data about themselves, about their properties, about experiences they want to offer and a lot more. It lets you, the user upload photos, reserve dates and write and send messages to hosts. And all of that is just data, added to the system.

  2. Secondly, Airbnb stores that information in a big database, and relates everything to each other in important ways. For example, Airbnb keeps track of all the properties owned by one host, and all the properties visited by each user.

  3. Thirdly, Airbnb takes all this data and crunches some numbers. It probably adds up rental income to create sales reports for Airbnb hosts and averages the number of days rented per year to project availability and demand in a particular area. Who knows, maybe they even process their data using third-party services, like checking your credit before they let you rent (I’m just guessing here).

  4. Fourth — Airbnb also carefully controls who has access to each bit of data. As a user, you can see your own messages and update your own profile, but not anyone else’s. You can reserve a property and charge it to your card, but you can’t mess with other users’ stuff or get in and cancel another host’s booking.

  5. Finally, Airbnb uses that data in a bunch of different ways. Some of it is presented on the website when users perform a search, allowing them to find available properties. Other times, it’s used in messages like booking confirmations and reminders.

In short, these five things make up most of what web applications do.

Similarly, Instagram:
  • Adds data every time you upload photos and follow other users’ accounts 
  • Stores that data for you in a big database and keeps everyone’s photos sorted by user
  • Controls access to user accounts and logins 
  • Crunches some numbers about how many likes you’re getting and how much time you spend on the site
  • Presents this data as you scroll through to see the stored photos, the likes you got from others and suggestions of other accounts you may want to follow

Ontraport gives you all these same capabilities. You get:
  • A bunch of tools to add new data to your database, like forms and APIs
  • Sophisticated ways to organize your data using fields and objects and relationships
  • Oversight so you can control access with user accounts and detailed permissions, as well as membership site logins for your customers
  • Ways to crunch numbers and automate the processing and manipulation of your data, including automations, webhooks, the API and more
  • Tools so you can present your data to users on the web, using Ontraport’s Dynamic CMS and in messages, with merge fields

In fact, with the tools you have in Ontraport, you can build much more than just a website. You can build full-on web applications without ever writing a line of software code.

In this course, we’re going to dive into these tools and learn about each one. We’ll go through a bunch of typical web application use cases and show you how to build them in Ontraport. 

It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds and, once you’ve got the basics locked in, you’ll have some internet superpowers that until now have been reserved only for talented software engineers with a lot of time on their hands. 

Let’s get started.
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